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On the ground, alumnus reports on Ukraine revolution

Vio­lent protests, polit­ical upheaval, and Russian involve­ment have thrust Ukraine into the inter­na­tional spot­light, and North­eastern alumnus and jour­nalist Dan Peleschuk has been sharing the story with the world from the conflict’s epicenter.

Peleschuk, AS’09, is a Moscow-​​based senior cor­re­spon­dent with the Global Post, an online U.S. news orga­ni­za­tion that has dis­patched him to report from Kiev on three occa­sions since December. His on-​​the-​​ground reporting has pro­duced news arti­cles on pro­tes­tors’ seizing con­trol of the cap­ital as well as memo­rial ser­vices held for those killed in clashes between anti-​​government pro­tes­tors and police forces last month.

“I think the most strik­ingly unex­pected thing for me was expe­ri­encing the fallout of the clashes,” Peleschuk said of the funerals. “I haven’t expe­ri­enced any moment as pow­erful, sad­dening, and in some ways empow­ering for the Ukrainians as they hon­ored those ‘fallen heroes’ as they called them.”

Protests in Ukraine began in November when now ousted Pres­i­dent Viktor Yanukovych aban­doned signing an asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union in favor of seeking closer eco­nomic coop­er­a­tion with Russia. Since then, protests and police response have esca­lated and turned deadly for the first time in Jan­uary. Vio­lence con­tinued in Feb­ruary, leaving at least 80 people dead and more than 1,000 injured. Yanukovych was ousted on Feb. 23 and an elec­tion is sched­uled for May.

Russia’s involve­ment with the unrest height­ened over the weekend. Despite warn­ings from U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Euro­pean leaders, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin sent troops to the Crimean Penin­sula to pro­tect its inter­ests and loy­al­ists living there. According to reports on Monday, Ukrainian offi­cials claimed Russia had issued ulti­ma­tums to Ukrainian forces in Crimea to sur­render. In a state­ment on Monday, Obama said Russia is on “the wrong side of history.” According to reports, Putin on Tuesday said Russia reserved the right to use force as a “last resort” and described the crisis in Ukraine as resulting from an “uncon­sti­tu­tional coup.”

Mitchell Oren­stein, pro­fessor and chair of Northeastern’s Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence, said this esca­lating sit­u­a­tion has the poten­tial to begin a new Cold War between Russia and the West.

“This is the most serious secu­rity sit­u­a­tion to develop in Europe since the end of the Cold War,” Oren­stein said, “and basi­cally the same poli­cies from that time, more or less an iso­la­tion of Russia, are going to be pursued.”

Peleschuk, for his part, has reported pri­marily from Kiev’s Inde­pen­dence Square, the cen­tral loca­tion of the demon­stra­tions. He said pro­tes­tors there con­tin­u­ously expressed their enthu­si­astic defi­ance against Yanukovych’s gov­ern­ment and Russian influence.

“There is this enduring sense of defi­ance, which is in some ways part of the Ukrainian char­acter,” Peleschuk said, “and recently emo­tions have stirred from defi­ance to deter­mi­na­tion. Pro­tes­tors are saying, ‘We are going to see this through, we have sac­ri­ficed a lot, and there is no turning back now.’”

Peleschuk is quite familiar with this corner of the world. He trav­eled there in the sum­mers as an under­grad­uate at North­eastern and while attending grad­uate school in Toronto. He also has a per­sonal con­nec­tion to this region; his grand­par­ents emi­grated from Ukraine during World War II, and his family his­tory has taught him a great deal about the country’s culture.

“Jour­nalism was some­thing that inter­ested me when I started uni­ver­sity and was the per­fect way to explore the region I’m familiar with cul­tur­ally more in depth,” Peleschuk explained.

He said his jour­nalism pro­fes­sors and fellow class­mates at North­eastern greatly influ­enced his mat­u­ra­tion as a jour­nalist, but when it comes to cov­ering a rev­o­lu­tion there are some things one can’t learn in a classroom.

“It is a trial by fire,” Peleschuk said. “Nothing can really pre­pare you for it besides keeping an open mind, a sense of pro­fes­sion­alism, and knowing how much work you have to do. It can get very stressful phys­i­cally and mentally.”

– By Joe O’Connell

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